A retiring senior clinician has warned that public hospitals could still be overwhelmed by a resurgence of Covid-19.
While UL Hospitals’ Group chief clinical director, Dr Gerry Burke is relieved with the suppression of coronavirus, he has urged people to “hold firm” as intensive care facilities in Ireland still have limited capacity to deal with a potential second wave of the virus later this year.
“It has been a massive effort, but it’s a work in progress. The threat has not gone away. It has abated somewhat, but there is a threat of us being overwhelmed by a resurgence of the disease.
“It’s important to remember that our ICU in capacity in Ireland is still limited; that we still have limited single room space; and limited numbers of medical and nursing staff. We must not be complacent. We have got to hold firm,” he said.
In addition to requiring an additional 300 public acute beds, Dr Burke, who retired recently, outlined some of the beds in their older nightingale wards will not be able to used in the same way in the new Covid-19 era.
The group currently has 700 beds and last winter it had 120% occupancy, or 800 patients. Even though there are 135 new beds coming on stream, he estimated there is still a shortfall of about 165 beds, which is a very big challenge to overcome.
The father-of-one is delighted with how the conversation with the community became a two-way one during the pandemic, given the local public’s support for the frontline workers of the Hospital Group and the community healthcare organisation, with donations, correspondence, sponsorship drives and other displays of solidarity with the healthcare staff of the region.
He said great hospitals operate in the Samaritan by helping people in a highly organised way, teach, research and innovate and support their communities, which has been seen throughout the Mid-West during the pandemic
He praised news of a €3.5m philanthropic contribution from the JP McManus Foundation Pro-Am 2021 as seed funding for the establishment at the University of Limerick of a dedicated institute for the study of infectious diseases, including Covid-19.
Dr Burke paid tribute to chief executive officer, Colette Cowan for doing a “fantastic job”
facilitating an intense collaborations between clinicians and executives;
Dr Sarah O’Connell, infectious diseases consultant, for designing safe care pathways in consultation with other clinicians and Dr Catherine Motherway, whose blunt “Prime Time” Covid-19 message “do what you are supposed to do” resonated with the public.